Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Free Schools. New York Charter Schools & Swedish Educational System. New Free Schools in UK. St. Michaels First in Cornwall. Katy Price.

Perry Beeches II Free School, in Birmingham
The first 24 free schools in the UK opened in September last year, among them a Hindu, Sikh, Montessori and two Jewish schools. The number of free schools has more than doubled this year to 55. Next year 114 are due to open including a Steiner School in Frome.

Free Schools are fast gaining in popularity with parents. Those which opened last year have filled, or almost filled, their places for this year. Many have expanded to meet demand and have large waiting lists.

Some independent Schools, which have been feeling the pinch and lack of fee-payers, have also become free schools or are in the process of applying. This benefits both schools and parents.

Free schools have also been given more publicity by Katy Price, who is among a group of parents hoping to set up a free school in Kent for children with visual impairment and other disabilities. Katy’s 10 year old son Harvey will be among them, if plans are approved.

A Department of Education Press Notice released this month, applying to England only, gives a good account of the free schools which started last year and this, and makes interesting reading. What a wide choice is available.

  • Dixon’s Music Primary Academy, in Bradford, which is the first specialist music primary school in England.
  • Everton in the Community Free School, on Merseyside. The alternative provision school is being run by Everton Football Club and will cater for pupils aged 14 to 19 not in mainstream education.
  • Bilingual Primary School, in Brighton & Hove, will be the first bilingual Free School in England, specialising in English and Spanish.
  • School 21, in Newham, East London, is a teacher-led all-through Free School, including a sixth-form, in an area of significant deprivation. One of the founder members, and the executive head teacher, is Peter Hyman, previously a speech-writer for ex-Prime Minister Tony Blair.
  • Rosewood Special Free School, in Southampton. A special school for children who have Profound and Multiple Learning Disabilities.
  • Tiger Primary School, in Maidstone, Kent, where all children will learn Mandarin and a musical instrument.
  • Perry Beeches II Free School, in Birmingham, is a new 11-18 Free School set up by an existing outstanding secondary school, Perry Beeches The Academy. The academy’s head, Liam Nolan, turned round the school’s performance from 21 per cent of pupils achieving five A*-C GCSEs including English and maths in 2007 to 77 per cent this year.
  • London Academy of Excellence, in Newham, East London. This is a sixth-form Free School which is being run by eight leading independent schools including Brighton College and Eton College.

The full list is given in the Press Notice, including St. Michaels Catholic School in Camborne. It is a double first for Cornwall, the first free school there and the first Catholic secondary school in the county.

The Free School initiative was launched by the new Conservative and Liberal Democrat Coalition in May 2010 to improve standards of education in England - particularly for poorer pupils in deprived areas - and to give parents more choice.

Free Schools are all-ability state-funded schools set up in response to what local people say they want and need in order to improve education for children in their community.

New York Charter School map
New York Charter Schools, one of the inspirations behind Free Schools, have been shown to substantially narrow the attainment gap between rich and poor – by 86 per cent in maths and 66 per cent in English. In Chicago they halve the achievement gap between inner-city students and their wealthier suburban counterparts. The Swedish school system was also drawn upon.